Happy Birthday, Wife

Wife and Pier at Crissy Field Today, Wife would have been 64-years old. She’s been gone for three years and change. Rarely does a day pass when her memory does not arise, often in the context of an event I think she would have like, a sight she would have enjoyed, or a song we shared.

I still miss her and think I always will. As I wander my way back toward Nevada, there are times when I think “Wife would have enjoyed that…” in the context of something I see or hear. The thought occurred to me yesterday when I was driving through Glenwood Canyon on my way to Grand Junction, Colorado. The light played on the rocks in the afternoon fall sun. The way the rocks were illuminated was interesting and we would have shared that sight.

Birthday celebrations are supposed to be happy affairs. I think when I settle in for the evening, I’ll raise a glass of wine to the east and salute Wife, her life, and her love. Happy Birthday, Wife!

Happy Birthday, Nana

The grandmother I knew as “Nana” died a few weeks ago. She was 100-years old. She saw a lot over her years and knew quite a lot. She shared that wisdom freely. She was the sweetest person I ever knew.

Today she would have been 101-years old. I miss her. Happy Birthday, Nana!

Independence Diner

Inside the Independence Diner, which used to be Danny's, which used to be Denny's.
Inside the Independence Diner, which used to be Danny’s, which used to be Denny’s.

Yesterday, the Girl and I were up really early to walk. She had a appointment with her veterinarian to have some lesions removed from her tummy. Because of her light skin, she is susceptible to skin cancer. Moreover, she’s my “sun baby,” and would choose to lie in the sun on her side and soak up that heat.

Because of our current lifestyle, she doesn’t do that anymore. We’re together all the time and often busy or driving. So she doesn’t have the same leisure time to ask to go outdoors and lie in the sun. But, she still has a few lesions popping up. Perhaps this year there will be fewer of them. I can hope.

So, after our walk, we drove back to the hotel so I could shower and gather up a few things. Then we headed for Minden and the vet’s office. I weighed her, signed in, and the staff put me in an examination room. Dr. Ross wanted to talk to me.

He looked her over and told me I could either wait or get a cup of coffee. He didn’t expect the procedure to take long (none of her spots were very big this time), so I left and decided to get a bite of breakfast.

For many years, Danny’s Diner (which was a Denny’s before I moved to Nevada) was a place I visited regularly, but not frequently. Wife and I loved to stop there when we were running errands for a bite. I just loved to spend such times with Wife. But Danny’s finally closed with the downturn in the economy (which hurt Nevada particularly badly) and I thought the facility would remain empty. But on my return to Nevada, I found a new place had opened.

So Thursday morning I drove from the vet’s to Independence Diner. It is really much like it was, but with a new menu and new staff. The staff are all friendly and the give-and-take between them bespeaks a friendly working environment. This is a good thing.

I ordered café con crema y agua, then repeated myself in ingles. I’m still practicing my Spanish daily, learning a bit each day, reinforcing past lessons as well. But, mi mesera no habla español, so we laughed about it and talked about Spanish. I ordered and worked in my bullet journal a bit while waiting for my food.

I chose poorly, I think. The chorizo omelette I ordered was just OK. I’ll have to try again, I suspect. And I will.

I drove back to the vet’s office to retrieve my Girl. (I don’t really think I own her; she’s not property.) I received instructions and walked my poor, groggy baby back to the rig. I lifted her into the backseat, thinking she would be more comfortable there. After trying to be up a bit, she melted into a pool of dog on the seat pan. She didn’t move all the way home.

I carried our stuff to the room and blocked open the door. After wriggling about a bit, I lifted her from the rig and carried her upstairs to her bed (my ratty old blanket). She didn’t move but went to sleep.

By evening she was more like herself. She doesn’t seem to be having much pain, for which I’m thankful. I gave her some food and her meds. Then we walked a little around the hotel and the park just across Stewart Street here in Carson City. We sat in the shade a long time, just taking in the outside time. She wanted to go chase squirrels, but I kept her on lead. She’s not ready to be rowdy and won’t be for a few more days.

Now I think it’s time to get out for a walk. She won’t walk off-lead this morning (and not for a few more days). But we both need exercise and outside air.

I’m thankful for her veterinarian. It was also good to see the little diner at the north end of Minden working again. It was a good day.

Wife’s Memorial

On our way out of town, the Girl and I stopped to visit the place where we dispersed Wife's ashes. Her family keeps a cross and flowers posted here to remember her. It's a beautiful field and I love to stop here and remember her at her best, not at the end.
On our way out of town, the Girl and I stopped to visit the place where we dispersed Wife’s ashes. Her family keeps a cross and flowers posted here to remember her. It’s a beautiful field and I love to stop here and remember her at her best, not at the end.

I love to visit this place, where we dispersed Wife’s ashes. It is across the county road from my old place, where I moved when I was 15-years old, finished high school, helped dad with the farm, and where Wife, I, and our two older children lived while I was working on my master’s degree.

I still believe this is a happy place for Wife’s ashes. It is a place that is meaningful to her, her family, and to me. That makes it right, at least to my mind.

The Old Man and the Girl

My dear old friends JW and Dee did a photoshoot for me. This is one of my favorite images, ever.
My dear old friends JW and Dee did a photoshoot for me. This is one of my favorite images, ever.

The Girl and I approach our fifth anniversary. I remember driving over the hill to be introduced (it is an arranged relationship) and to determine our compatibility. Young Son went along with me, just in case she would accompany us home.

It was the beginning of the most difficult time of my life, but for other reasons. That is documented elsewhere. The important part of the story is that our relationship continues to develop as we know each other better.

It was great fun around the first of the year when old friends, JW and Dee (J.W. Margrave Photography), accepted my request for a photoshoot. I am always the one behind the camera, so it was great experience to be on the other side for a change. JW and Dee are great fun to work with. They are very professional and skilled at what they do. We had fun wandering around the Texas Tech campus on a very cold, gray day.

But it was certainly worth braving the cold. This is one of my favorite images, ever.

Third Anniversary — 2016

An interesting sculpture at the Denver Art Center.
An interesting sculpture at the Denver Art Center.
The complement to the Man sculpture at the Denver Art Center.
The complement to the Man sculpture at the Denver Art Center.

For some reason, the pair of sculptures I saw at the Denver Art Center seem appropriate for this rumination. They remind me of Wife and me.

Three years ago, Wife died. What more can be said about such a watershed event? What can I do to honor her memory than to remember her most days and then set aside a few minutes on her big days to reflect on her life and our shared lives?

I’ll tell you what I can do — I can live. I’m not going to be that other man in the grief group (I went a couple of times and then quit) who was stuck in his loss. He could not get traction to process his grief, to live it, to let it permeate his soul with the shearing pain of that loss, and then to release that energy as his wife would want.

I watched him. I felt his pain, not just my own. I shielded myself from his pain as it was too much to take on the pain of another man’s loss when so close to my own. I thought “He needs help he cannot get here,” as I walked away from that first group session. I thought “He has to get his feet under him, do the work, process his grief, and honor his wife’s memory if he’s going to move forward.”

Then I reflected on my own internal journey, my own internal work. I was much farther down the path of my grief than the other man. No, it was not a race and there is no winner; there is no better man when dealing with this life-changing event. There is just the grief and the work. There is a necessity to do this work or that pain will kill the spirit.

I returned once more to see if the grief group held anything for me. I learned that I was already far down the process of my grief and decided that spending time with my few friends (those that hung with me) would be far better for me than spending witm with the other grievers. So, that’s what I did.

My gut told me to run away… to just get on the bike or in the 4Runner and go walkabout for a while. My aching spirit wanted the outdoors, the open road, and time away from shared places to process what happened. I wanted to be the Ghost Rider (see Neil Peart’s book) and let the clean air and open road purge some of the pain from me.

But, I didn’t. I did the responsible thing and kept after my obligations. I continued my inner work and did what I could for my employer.

That all changed last March. I was released from my engagement. So, I sold the house, rid myself of a bunch of things (still have too much), put the remaining things in storage, and left. One thing I learned is that my gut was right — I should spend time outdoors and on the road. These are healing places for me and I made up for my original decision these last few months by spending time with loved ones here and there across the country.

And, this is how I honor Wife. I spend time with loved ones and on the road.

I sense, though, that this time is ending. My walkabout is coming to a close, or at the very least is going to change. What that will be is not yet clear. It will be, though, when the time is right. My direction is to remain in the moment, for that is all we ever have. I will remember Wife on all our special days, and most others. I’ll review the images of us together, doing things that we enjoyed, our family pictures, and just remembering. I will continue to honor Wife this way. It feels right. It also feels right to leave the pain behind (mostly) and celebrate the happy times we loved.

I dream of her often. I remember her often. I miss her all the time.

New Year 2016

A old friend working on the final mix.
A old friend working on the final mix.

How better to spend the beginning of the New Year than with a long walk with my Girl and then a visit with an old friend? After my morning regimen, I decided I really wanted a long walk. The last few days have been frustrating with the residual snow and the resulting ice. It’s cold enough at night to refreeze the previous day’s snowmelt, so the streets are treacherous and there is no place to walk. Most of the walks are still snow and ice covered. Higinbotham was great, but there is still a lot of snow and so my pace is too slow for me to get credit for my exercise. (I permit this one bit of obsessive-compulsive behavior.)

So, this morning I decided to drive to the Tech campus and see if I could get enough clear paths to get in a good walk. The Girl and I drove over there and campus was essentially deserted. We parked in the Engineering Key, which brought back many memories. I put the Girl’s training collar on her, got her out of my rig, and gave her a chance to sniff around while I collected my few things.

After policing her poo, we took off. We walked the Engineering Key, then turned west and walked along the back part of campus over to one of the new buildings. Tech has a lot of new buildings. Then we turned south along Indiana and walked to the housing area. We headed east along 18th Street and then closed the loop to the Engineering Key. All told, we got about 2-3/4 miles in and made a good pace. The Girl had plenty of chances to run out after a bird and then be called back into heel again.

I have to tighten up her training a bit. It seems she’s forgotten some of her service work. With all of my friends around, she’s confused about who she can greet and when. She’s so social that she wants to interact. She’s also a bit impulsive. So, we have some work to do and I’m up for it. I love working with her.

On the way back to the motel, a friend sent a text message that he’d be at the studio if I was up for a visit. So, we drove home, got a bite, I showered (needed it), and we drove over the Amusement Park Studio and visited with my friend while he worked on a mix. It’s fun watching him work. I love watching someone work when they know what they’re doing. There is beauty in skill. The more skill, the more beauty I see. While he worked, I snagged a few captures with my iPhone.

Now it’s my turn to do some work. I have things on my list yet that I want to get done. I have only a few days before I head west again. I’m ready to be on the road, but I need to complete some tasks too. So, I’d better get focused.

I believe this year will be better than last. I’m looking for my Best Year Ever and am willing to work for it. There’s lots of uncertainty in front of me. But, my concept for last year was Embrace Uncertainty. It appears that concept is still active this year. It’s good.

Happy New Year and Welcome 2016!

Happy Birthday, Sis!

My youngest sister was born the day after Christmas. She would have been 56-years old today. Like the rest of my nuclear family, she is gone.

She made a lot of poor choices over the years and that lead to quite a bit of distance between us. But I still loved her and when she was in a good place she was a lot of fun to be around. I miss you Sis. Happy Birthday!

Yesterday’s Rain

Over the last few years, I gradually collected all of the Winter’s Solstice recordings produced by Windham Hills Records, which is now owned by Sony. I play these collections of songs from Windham Hills artists during the holiday season, along with some other favorite music that celebrates the season.

When I snagged a copy of Winter’s Solstice VI, I discovered the track Yesterday’s Rain written and recorded by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden, a guitarist and composer of much skill. I was immediately drawn into the deep romantic vibe of this song.

When Wife died, this song somehow became deeply linked with my loss. I feel it every time I play this song. But, along with that deep sense of loss, of longing for what is now gone, there is also joy. There is joy in what we shared all those years. There is joy in remembering the season during which we celebrate the Christ’s birth. There is joy in remembering how Wife loved this season, loved finding the right gift (to the point of being obsessive-compulsive about it), and how she loved playing the Santa Claus role, even after all the kids had grown far past that myth.

It didn’t matter. We all loved her enthusiasm and excitement. It’s a good thing. The memories are good, if poignant. The song is an absolute gem.

Thanksgiving and Travel

The entry to the little church at the cemetery where Dad is buried.
The entry to the little church at the cemetery where Dad is buried.

While in Rolla, I visited Mom/Dad’s plots at the local cemetery. My intent is to have a plaque placed to memorialize Wife at the foot of Mom’s plot. So, we looked around while I was there, talked a bit, and I got the contact information needed to make the call.

After they left, the Girl and I kicked around the cemetery a bit more, me hoping to find a geocache (and to just spend some time outdoors without it raining). There was no geocache, but the Girl and I had fun spending outside time together anyway.

I elected to drive out to Pilot Knob to pay Dad’s gravesite a visit. Although he died in 1995, I still talk to him and wish I had some of his insight and wisdom to draw on. I know he’d tell me to make up my own mind, but he had a way of asking questions and telling stories that provided some of the perspective I always seem to lack.

It’s beautiful little cemetery, tidy, well-kept, peaceful. I saw that my stepmom is still alive. I wandered around there for a bit, talking to my Dad and thinking back on the time we spent together. Those few days before he died are especially poignant. I remember standing on the front porch of his house, watching a thundershower and listening to the lightning — safe a dry… until the wind shifted and blew the rain in on us. Then we scattered back into the house to keep dry. I’m still laughing although it was 20-years ago.

On the way out I noticed the geometry of the entry to the little church. It needed a capture, so I made one.

The geocache across U.S. 63 was not to be found. The Girl and I had a nice hike anyway, at least unti she was spooked by shotgun fire across the way. She needed to coaxing to hop into the 4Runner when we left.

I spent a few more days with Mom/Dad there in Rolla. Thanksgiving celebration was wonderful and I’m honored to have spent it with the family.

I left Monday and stopped in Willard to visit my grandmother. She recently entered a nursing home there and I wanted to see her. She just turned 100-years old and that’s old by any measure. That she was in a nursing facility was not good news. As I expected, she’s not doing well and I think she’s ready to die and be released of her struggle. I can’t blame her for that and she greeted me with the same smile and grace that she’s always had, just weaker and tired. She went back to sleep as I spoke to her.

I wandered down through Arkansas the last couple of days, spending a lot of my time on State Highway 23. I collected a couple of geocaches, a few images, and spent a lot of time remembering. Nana will be gone soon. Three years ago Wife was struggling with her radiation therapy and this time of year is always an emotional challenge for me. I don’t think I’ll ever adjust to Wife being gone.

I know this comes up on this space frequently and sometimes it seems like I’m whining. But this is my reality. The loss of someone this close is not something one just gets over. There are times when the loss is more keenly felt and writing about it here is one way I process my grief.

This morning I dropped into Louisiana to pick up a geocache and collect another state. I drove through the northwest corner of the state, remembering the marshlands that make up most of Louisiana. Then I turned west and worked my way into Texas.

I started the process of procuring a marker for Wife. I’ll have it placed at the foot of her mom’s plot. There will be a permanent marker to remember her. I think it’s the last thing that needs to be done.

It felt good to be in Texas again. I stopped in Gainesville to spend the night. Getting access to the Internet was something of a problem, but it eventually was worked out. I got caught up on everything that needed doing and will soon call it a day. I don’t have a long day tomorrow, but I have been waking really early. Plus the Girl needs Walkies in the morning (as do I) and I don’t want to push it too late or it will be dark by the time I get to Lubbock.

I’m looking forward to seeing some family and friends this trip. I missed a bunch of them the last time I passed through, but those were different circumstances. I don’t have as much time as I’d like for this trip, but at least the time I have is mostly mine.

I have many things I’m thankful for. I spent time this morning remembering those things (including people) and prayed as I drove, thanking God for his kindness, grace, mercy, and for permitting me to have to wonderful people in my life.